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Heathrow plans to bring in eGates for 10-year-olds over half term

Heathrow confirms plans to bring in eGates for 10-year-olds over half term – as airport records busiest start to the year since before the pandemic

  • Heathrow is introducing eGates for children as young as ten during half term 
  • Read more: Flight attendant allegedly bitten by passenger after stopping fight 

Children as young as 10 will be able to use Heathrow’s passport eGates as the airport trials a scheme to make travelling easier for families. 

Border Force is introducing the use of the eGates, which have so far only been available to people over the age of 12, in Terminal 5 over this week’s half term. 

The airport welcomed the scheme and said it would contribute to ‘smooth and seamless’ travel.  

It comes after Border Force strike action caused severe travel disruption in the run up to Christmas.  

Heathrow’s passenger numbers have bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, the airport said on Monday. 

(File Photo) E-gates use facial recognition technology to check passengers’ identities against the photo in their passport

Passenger numbers are back to pre-pandemic levels, the airport said on Monday, as it heads into the busy half-term period (file image)

Heathrow hailed a strong half-term travel period, assuring that the airport is well equipped to manage the influx in families enjoying getaways.

It reiterated plans for eGates for children aged 10 and 11 to be trialled in Terminal 5 over half term, which it said helps bring about ‘smooth and seamless journeys’. 

Chief executive Mr Holland-Kaye said: ‘Heathrow is back to its best, with passenger satisfaction scores meeting or exceeding 2019 levels.

‘We are giving a warm welcome to families over the half-term getaway by delivering excellent service and bringing back the magic of travel.’

Plans to trial the scheme were announced in January at the annual conference of the Airport Operators Association.  

Border Force chief Phil Douglas said one of the reasons for the trials of allowing 10 and 11-year-olds to use the gates is to ensure it does not increase the risk of child smuggling. 

He said: ‘Part of the reason why we don’t allow children to use the e-gates is technological – because children’s faces change. 

‘But there’s a balance to be struck between helping families not to queue and making sure our safeguarding processes work.’ 

He added that if the trial is successful there are hopes that the eGates will be rolled out for younger children at airports across the country by the summer. 

Transport Secretary Mark Harper, speaking at the same event in January, said: ‘We have to be comfortable that the technology works for that age cohort. 

‘But if those trials are successful I’m sure ministers will want to make sure that we have as smooth and seamless a progress into the country as possible.’ 

He added that the primary responsibility of the Home Secretary is to maintain security, but it is also making sure that ‘we have the best possible passenger experience’.

In November 2022, enormous queues formed at Heathrow after the biometric scanners at passport controls broke down.

The airport admitted a problem with the scanners had extended the wait times for passengers.  

The UK’s busiest airport revealed more than 5.4 million passengers travelled through Heathrow in January, reaching levels not seen since the start of 2020.

It follows a summer of major disruption for airports like Heathrow as the aviation sector struggled to cope with staff shortages (file image)

Heathrow said on Monday that it had ‘successfully managed’ December’s strike action, having previously made assurances that it was operating normally with minimal queuing in immigration halls throughout the strike days.

Its overall passenger satisfaction scores are now at or above pre-pandemic levels, the airport also announced.

In January, 97% of passengers waited less that 10 minutes for security, it said.

It follows a summer of major disruption for airports like Heathrow as the aviation sector struggled to cope with staff shortages and travellers were met with sudden flight cancellations and severe delays.

Furthermore, the airport said it is supportive of airlines British Airways and Virgin Atlantic restarting ticket sales to China, ‘reopening a key market for British exports once more’.

Businesses and investors have reacted positively to China reopening its borders this year as the world’s largest economy revealed it is developing a path out of its strict ‘zero Covid’ policy.

Mr Holland-Kaye delivered the update ahead of him standing down from his role this year.

He has been chief executive for nine years and is set to remain in post until Heathrow appoints a successor.

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